Red Lanterns #7

March 9, 2012

Release Date: March 7, 2012
Cover Date: May 2012

Story: Peter Milligan
Pencils: Ed Benes and Diego Bernard
Inks: Rob Hunter, Mark Irwin, Sal Regla, and Dave Meikis
Cover: Ed Benes

Bleez and the Red Lanterns hunt down former Sinestro Corps members in space, while Guy Gardner squares off against Rankorr on Earth. Guy’s trying to help the human Red Lantern, and when the latter saves Guy from oncoming traffic, it gets even more confusing. Rankorr flies off into space, heeding the call of the ring. Back on Ysmault, Bleez tells her captives that Atrocitus has become a shell of his former self, and that she’s in charge now. Atrocitus himself is searching through the Abominable Zone, where his initial Red Lantern experiments took place. One of those experiments, Abysmus, rises from the ground to attack his maker. Atrocitus realizes that Absymus and his Abysmorphs (ugh) used Krona’s flesh to rebuild themselves, and the battle is joined. Rankorr suddenly arrives, and while Atrocitus is distracted, Abysmus impales him.

Red Lanterns #6 was surprisingly good…and this new issue slips back down into the mire. The Jack Moore story is okay, as he’s still trying to understand what he’s become. Things get sticky with the main story, and the confusing continuity problems.

Bleez’s rebellion is nothing special, to be honest, though there was an interesting point: it seems that the Sinestro Corps has been completely eliminated. Other than those last ringless survivors, the rest were hunted down and executed by Sinestro himself. That must’ve taken a long time…

If Abysmus is the true thief of Krona’s body, well, then that just fell flat. Another hulking zombie monster? Like comics aren’t full of those already! Furthermore, Abysmus claims he’s been buried for centuries…but Atrocitus was imprisoned on Ysmault for much longer than that. How could Atrocitus perform his experiments while he was staked out with the other Inversions? The dialogue wasn’t so hot, either, but that’s been a problem since the first issue. Atrocitus’ monologues are even worse, but again, those aren’t anything new.

Finally, Atrocitus’ “death” was just plain stupid. We’ve known from the start that his heart is no longer a weak spot due to his nature as a Red Lantern. New readers may not know that, but they do know that a book isn’t going to kill off its star so quickly.

Red Lanterns #7 also features numerous production errors. There’s typos and misplaced word balloons, and in one panel, Atrocitus’ power ring has no symbol! In other panels, he’s not wearing his ring at all! C’mon, there’s no excuse for that.

Final note: this issue is the first Lantern book to feature the new DC Comics logo on the cover. Like just about anything else in comics, it’s been controversial, but it honestly doesn’t look too bad in print.

Green Lantern: Circle of Fire #2

March 5, 2012

Release Date: August 31, 2000
Cover Date: Late October 2000

Story: Brian K. Vaughan
Pencils: Robert Teranishi
Inks: Claude St. Aubin
Cover: Darryl Banks and Kevin Nowlan

Kyle Rayner and his assembled heroes square off against Oblivion. The villain feeds on their fear, enabling him to overwhelm his foes. When Oblivion kills Forest, Kyle’s had quite enough. He flies into Oblivion in order to discover the truth, and he’s shocked when he does: Oblivion is Kyle! More accurately, he’s all of Kyle’s negative emotions given form subconsciously by the power ring. In response, the ring created the new Green Lanterns based on Kyle’s positive aspects. To stop Oblivion, Kyle has to reabsorb the Lanterns, and he uses them to trap the villain deep within the recesses of his own mind. Oblivion will always be there, but Kyle is confident that he can keep him at bay. Back on the Moon, Kyle resigns from the JLA, but his fellow heroes won’t permit it. They understand that Kyle has overcome incredible odds, and he deserves a place among their ranks now more than ever.

This second bookend issue wraps up the miniseries beautifully, and the crux of Circle of Fire is simple: a man overcomes his personal demons, but it’s cleverly set up within what first appears to be a bog-standard superhero battle. Only at the end is the twist revealed, even though hints were dropped all through the preceding issues. This kind of personal story is a relative rarity in modern superhero comics; all too often, a hero’s foibles are blamed on possession, blackmail, or some other such outside influence. That’s why tales like Circle of Fire stand out; they remind us that our heroes are all too human, and that can have profound consequences. In this case, the wielder of the most powerful weapon in the universe had his own thoughts and feelings come back to bite him in the ass, amplified by that very weapon!

I’m not familiar with any of artist Robert Teranishi’s other work, but his slick style works well here. Aside from appropriately larger-than-life depictions of our favorite heroes, Oblivion looks menacing even when he’s in “Kyle form,” and there’s some excellent graphic design when we’re shown the inside of Kyle’s mind. Am I the only one who misses a lot of the clean art styles from the Kyle era?

Speaking of those other heroes…each of the new Green Lanterns’ place as a facet of Kyle’s personality was quite cool. For example, a Manhunter robot exemplifying logic makes perfect sense. After this revelation, it makes you want to go back and read the five Circle of Fire one-shots in a new light! I also really enjoyed the supporting cast of established heroes, especially Adam Strange and Firestorm. Each one of them had a specific and useful role to play, and it would’ve been difficult to replace them with anyone else. Some of the one-shots may have had a few problems, but the saga as a whole is still worth reading.

Circle of Fire‘s place in modern continuity is highly questionable, as is just about everything from the Kyle era. It seems that it’s been sadly excised from continuity entirely, primarily because of events during “The Sinestro Corps War.” For a brief time during that conflict, Kyle was possessed by Parallax. Do you really think Oblivion wouldn’t have reared his head if Parallax tried to muscle in on his turf? Oblivion feeds on fear, so he literally would’ve eaten the giant space bug for breakfast. But since there wasn’t even a mention of Oblivion, we can assume that the powers-that-be dumped that critical chunk of Kyle’s backstory along with so many others. It’s a shame, because the very concept that Kyle was technically harboring a supervillain at all times could’ve made for some excellent stories down the road. (Which, of course, was the entire point.) Throwing that away just seems like a colossal waste.

Regardless, Circle of Fire was a great story, and remains one of Kyle’s character-defining moments, the hiccups in some of the one-shots nonwithstanding. The entire saga is collected in trade paperback format, and I do recommend adding it to your collection.

I definitely need to give a shout-out once more to my guest reviewers, as I am eternally grateful for their awesome contributions. Reading them inspired me to step up my game, as it were. Make sure you comment on their reviews to let them know what you think! And did you read their own blogs like I told you to? Get going!

Green Lantern and Power Girl

March 2, 2012

Guest review by Michael Bailey. Check out his blog at Fortress of Baileytude!

Release Date: August 23, 2000
Cover Date: October 2000

Story: Scott Beatty
Pencils: Pete Woods
Inks: Andrew Pepoy and John Stanisci
Cover: Cary Nord and Mark Lipka

The Green Lantern of the year 1256 searches for and finds Power Girl on the Watchtower. The Daxamite Green Lantern is a bit anxious but Power Girl is secure in the knowledge that no matter how dire the situation gets the Justice League never gives up. Elsewhere, Oblivion orders his minion Kir’tik to guard his treasure, to the last of his species if he must. Back at the Watchtower the Medieval Green Lantern soaks up some yellow sun energy before heading off with Power Girl in search of the League. Along the way they discuss why an alien Green Lantern looks like he stepped out of medieval times and how there is no record of his existence.

Power Girl and Green Lantern arrive at their destination only to find a giant, black mass where the League should be. They are drawn into the mass and find themselves on an ice planet. Green Lantern is concerned because he can feel his strength dwindling but Power Girl is quick to point out that he has a power ring and that his true strength will come from within. This theory is put to the test when the two are attacked by an alien creature. Green Lantern chooses a more direct approach as he hacks away at the creature’s tentacles with a broad sword construct. Power Girl also suggests that he use his heat vision and soon the two make their way across the planet where they finally find the Justice League encased in a yellow crystal and guarded by Kir’tik and his species.

Green Lantern is a tad upset since his ring still has the impurity that makes it useless against yellow. Power Girl goes to smash the crystal but Kir’tik stops her and that is when Power Girl realizes that they are guarding the crystal and protecting it from harm. Green Lantern is incensed that Power Girl wants to just leave the League where they are but she is quick to point out that the two of them and the rest of Kyle’s team are Oblivion’s problem, not the League. Just then the two heroes receive a communication from Kyle telling them to get to the coordinates he is sending them as fast as they can because he has found Oblivion. Before they leave Green Lantern reveals that his true name is Pel Tavin. Power Girl introduces herself as Karen but her friends call her Kara.

Initially I thought I could just read this book and remember enough of the story without having to go back and read the first installment of the Green Lantern: Circle of Fire fifth week event. Turns out I remember next to nothing of who Oblivion was or why Power Girl was teamed up with this medieval looking Green Lantern. Normally I have a pretty good memory for these things and to a certain extent I was relieved to learn that my recall is not as freakish as my friends and loved ones would have me believe. So I re-read Green Lantern: Circle of Fire #1 for the first time in twelve years and followed that with Green Lantern and Power Girl and after finishing both books a few realizations hit me all at once. First up, there were names in the credits that surprised me. Nowadays if you say the name Brian K. Vaughan you think Y: The Last Man or LOST, not a Green Lantern fifth week event. It reminded me that Vaughan did spend some time in the mainstream DC Universe before finding success elsewhere.

The other name that shocked me was Pete Woods, who penciled the Green Lantern and Power Girl special. Maybe it is the inking or the coloring but Woods’ style in this story looks nothing like the work he would eventually do on the Superman titles. Don’t get me wrong. I liked the art quite a bit. I just wasn’t expecting to see Woods’ name in the credits.

Finally, Matt Idleson edited the book. Back in 2000 he was editing fifth week events. Now he edits the Superman books. That strikes me as weird and it shouldn’t.

The second realization is that the look of DC’s books in the late nineties carried over for a year or so after the calendar hit the 2000s. This special came out in August of 2000 and between the art style and the coloring it looked like it could have easily come out in 1998 or 1999. Again this is not a dig or me suggesting that the art was bad but it drove home the point that comics really have changed a lot over the last twelve years and while that shouldn’t have been a surprise it kind of was. This has to do with the fact that the year 2000 feels like yesterday to me, so when I get the wake-up call that it has been over a decade since these comics first hit the stands it is kind of sobering.

The third and final realization was how well the plot of this story held up. There are some specifics about the issue that are a little clunky but the central idea is pretty solid. Power Girl and Medieval Green Lantern team-up to fight some cosmic level bad guy and learn a little something about themselves and each other in the process. Actually I like the concept of a medieval era Green Lantern that adopted the look and speech patterns of the people of that time period so that he wouldn’t spook them too much quite a bit. It is kind of awesome actually. Add to the mix that he is a Daxamite and the character becomes even more appealing. I felt a tad silly about that actually. I dug Sodam Yat as a character because when he was introduced I thought the idea of a Daxamite being a Green Lantern to be new and fresh. I guess Pel Tavin didn’t make that much of an impression on me back in 2000.

I liked Power Girl in this story as well. She was played as the supportive older sister hero, which was a refreshing change from how most writers would handle her from this time period. Karen had become kind of one note as a character, especially when she was in Justice League Europe. As much as I enjoy the stories she appeared in it does bug me that she was played as this ball of anger and the explanation that her mood was the result of drinking diet cola didn’t make up for that characterization. Here she was confidant and took control of the situation early on, which I liked. I also enjoyed the interaction between her and Pel leading up to them revealing their true names to each other at the end of the issue. Sure it didn’t mean much because they are from different time periods but it was a good character beat and a nice way to close out the story.

There were some other bits of business that I liked as well. We got a cameo from Power Girl’s cat, which was fun. It was neat to see that Ronnie Raymond’s step-mother was working for the company that Power Girl owned. I also dug the not-so thinly veiled dig a Microsoft Windows in the form of an operating system called, “Curtains-2-K”. The cameo by Black Canary was also welcome and served to remind the reader that Power Girl played a part in Birds of Prey. It wasn’t a huge part and frankly the relationship between Power Girl and Oracle was rather contentious but I always liked it when Power Girl would show up in Birds of Prey. I also like the fact that Power Girl was wearing her yellow and white costume. I have no idea why but I like that look for her.

Overall this was a neat little book and reminded me that the DC Comics of the early 2000s could be a fun place to hang out in. By the time Circle of Fire hit the stands the fifth week events were becoming rather ho-hum but this one was pretty solid. Then as now I think Circle of Fire was a great way to expose the then-current generation to a group of heroes that were largely being ignored and despite the fact that she had been in Sovereign 7 and Birds of Prey Power Girl didn’t get a whole lot of screen time in that era. Here she got a chance to shine and that makes me smile.

One final thought; this didn’t occur to me at the time but in many ways Circle of Fire was the last story of the nineties era Green Lantern. In the very same month that Circle of Fire came out Judd Winick started his run on Green Lantern and while the artwork initally looked the same the stories (and DC as a universe) would evolve into a different, slightly darker place. Winick went places that Ron Marz didn’t especially when it came to social issues. While Circle of Fire would later play into Kyle’s time as Ion this story seems like one last party before the books started becoming something…else. It was kind of like the last party you have with your high school friends before heading off to college. That is not a negative criticism, just an observation.

Green Lantern and Firestorm the Nuclear Man

March 1, 2012

Guest review by The Irredeemable Shag. Check out his blog at Firestorm Fan!

Release Date: August 23, 2000
Cover Date: October 2000

Story: Jay Faerber
Pencils: Ron Randall
Inks: Dan Davis
Cover: Cary Nord and Mark Lipka

Following the events of Green Lantern: Circle of Fire #1, Firestorm and the Green Lantern Manhunter robot (referred to as “G.L.”) search for the one thing that can stop Oblivion, a mysterious weapon known as the Omega Option. Firestorm follows a hunch which leads them to investigate an unknown planet that has been ravaged by some unknown force. Firestorm and G.L. encounter the planet’s inhabitants who agree to provide the Omega Option in exchange for help defeating the “Fire God” that devastated their world. A battle ensues and the “Fire God” is revealed to be Professor Martin Stein in the form of the Firestorm Elemental. Unfortunately, traveling the cosmos with overwhelming power has driven Ronnie Raymond’s former partner mad and he’s lost touch with his humanity. Some quick thinking by G.L. helps re-ignite Professor Stein’s human emotions and the situation is defused. The planet’s inhabitants reveal they do not possess the Omega Option, they only claimed that to secure the heroes assistance. The Professor Stein Elemental commits himself to aiding the planet’s inhabitants while Ronnie and G.L. are called away by Kyle Rayner to help stop Oblivion.

If you were a fan of Firestorm back in the year 2000, then you were starved for Nuclear Man content. After Extreme Justice closed up shop in 1996, ol’ Match-Head was pretty much relegated to panel backgrounds in major crossovers. You know what I’m talking about; the kind of crossovers where they march out all the limbo-living characters just to fill a crowd scene. “Sure kids, Batman is in the front row, but look in the background — there’s Firestorm…and Beefeater…and Yazz.”

Being part of this fifth week event was really exciting for us Firestorm fans! Firestorm was headlining a one-shot! It was even more exciting for me as this era of Green Lantern was my favorite! I was really drawn to Kyle Rayner (no pun intended). In hindsight, Kyle’s youthful optimism and larger-than-life powers probably reminded me of Firestorm in some ways.

First, can we talk about Green Lantern: Circle of Fire #1? Y’know, the comic written by Brian K. Vaughan and drawn by Norm Breyfogle. Poor Firestorm, talk about slumming it with creators. OMG! Seriously, Vaughan and Breyfogle! How awesome is that?!?! Norm Breyfogle (my favorite Batman artist) drew some beautiful shots of the Nuclear Man.

Also, I really enjoyed Ronnie Raymond’s relationship with Ray Palmer in Green Lantern: Circle of Fire #1. We’d seen Ronnie tutored by Ray previously, but this helped cement the concept of teacher and student. Given the circumstances, Ray Palmer made a great stand-in for Professor Martin Stein. In fact, Ronnie in the current “New 52″ series The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men could probably use some similar guidance. At the time when Circle of Fire was published, I wanted to see more of Ronnie and Ray along with Firestorm and the Atom. Just imagine if Ray had joined the Firestorm matrix! He would have brought his scientific know-how, along with his ability to shrink. Those adventures would have been atomically cool!!!

Okay, now let’s talk about Green Lantern and Firestorm the Nuclear Man. I’m not going to mince words — this was not a good comic. Sorry, I was disappointed back in 2000 and I was disappointed again when I re-read it for this review.

Sadly, the writing by Jay Faerber was clunky. His work on Noble Causes and Dynamo 5 is highly regarded, which makes this story doubly-disappointing. The characterization was weak throughout the issue. Firestorm’s normal hot-headedness was greatly exaggerated and he inexplicably lost his temper several times. The robotic G.L. didn’t seem to have a consistent personality. At first it seemed they were going for the cold, calculating robot shtick with G.L., but that was quickly abandoned. The planet’s inhabitants our heroes protected were also blank slates. The reader felt bad for the devastation of their planet, but beyond that they have no discernible characteristics (other than the female Captain provided a little cheesecake to the comic).

I also had concerns with the plot. Out of the billions upon billions of worlds in the cosmos, Firestorm used his gut instinct to pick some random planet to search for the Omega Option. What? Sure it moved the story forward, but it was hard to get past this illogical plot device.

The piece that bothered this match-head most was the “rogue” Elemental aspect. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Elemental incarnation of Firestorm. I was just disappointed to see the Elemental lose touch with his humanity‚Ķ again. This concept was explored previously in the Firestorm series itself, and again in Extreme Justice. Admittedly, not everyone had read Extreme Justice (after all, it hadn’t yet reached the appreciation level of Watchmen or Batman: The Dark Knight Returns), but it was still ground previously covered.

The art was also something of a letdown after Norm Breyfogle’s pencils in the first part. Artist Ron Randall is best known (well, best known by me) as one of the artists on Justice League International (formerly Justice League Europe; not to be confused with the good JLI series). Randall’s artwork is serviceable in this issue, but not the stand-out work of the crossover. Probably Randall’s most interesting renderings are of the planet’s inhabitants.

Now the cover by Cary Nord is a whole different matter! Nord is one of my all-time favorite Daredevil artists. I was very excited to see Firestorm rendered by this fantastic artist! If you’ve got the issue, take a good look at Firestorm’s hair. Between Nord and the coloring, it took on a three-dimensional sense. Impressive!

Overall, while the Green Lantern and Firestorm the Nuclear Man comic was disappointing, it was great seeing Firestorm back in action. Especially during a period of time when Firestorm appearances were few and far between. If the issue had been written and drawn by the same team that produced Green Lantern: Circle of Fire #1, then I think this could have been a fantastic comic.


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